Riviera towns
Creating the Côte d'Azur

T he name Côte d'Azur was coined by Stephen Liégeard, politician and writer, in 1887 when he published a book on the Riviera called La Côte d'Azur . The new name was an instant hit and caught on almost immediately across the region and the rest of France - and indeed the world.

A "coast of light, of warm breezes, and mysterious balmy forests...from Genoa to Hyères , the route is short but delicious." was how Liégeard described the area.

S uch is the beauty of the area that people seem to describe their first visit to the Riviera as a discovery. Perhaps one of the first of these discoverers was Hercules, who, according to legend, created the port of Villefranche-sur-Mer with his own bare hands.

In terms of modern tourists you have to fast forward to the 18th century when one Tobias Smollett , Englishman and writer came to the region for his health. You won't find what he saw here in today's holiday and vacation brochures .

In his Letters from Nice , Smollet describes how he narrowly escapes bandits in the Maures hills, and almost met a watery death while crossing the then bridgeless river var. He writes of the streets of Nice being " full of excrement ", that " day and night, flies and fleas " swarm, and the servants " repulsively dirty ".

Perhaps he just had a bad day because in the main the picture he painted was a rosy one, and Nice is a fine city. His writings on the natural beauty and superb climate of the Riviera attracted a great many English travellers to the area. They were followed later by the Russians and the French.

" Princes and princes, everywhere princes ", remarked Guy de Maupassant in 1888. This was the Belle Époque for the Riviera - the last half of the 19th century, the golden era. The railway had made it possible - for those with the fare - to travel from Vienna to Cannes in 31 hours in a luxurious Pullman sleeping car. By the end of that century, a weekly St. Petersburg-Vienna-Cannes line carried the rich and privileged to the azure coast.

Grand hotels, sublime villas, and splendid casinos were built along the beaches. Champagne, caviar, and money flowed. Yet the Côte d'Azur was still not a summer resort , that era was yet to arrive from across the Atlantic.

Created, composed, and constructed by Virtual Riviera 1995